Wednesday, August 15, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - august 18, 2018

...look, it's the week of Travis Scott. Yes, there were other debuts and we'll be giving them a little bit more time, but this is the week Astroworld rolled over the Hot 100 thanks to much of the same sort of juicy Spotify payola - I mean I promotion that Drake got. But while this means that all seventeen songs from the album charted - pray for my soul - it's at least a better record than Scorpion was, arguably one of the better album bombs this year, and at the very least I don't expect it to last, especially given that next week Nicki Minaj will likely net some sort of chart success right behind him, and then Ariana Grande behind them!

But in the mean time, we need to consider the top ten where 'In My Feelings' by Drake is continuing to squat at #1 on sales, YouTube, surging radio... but on-demand streaming has slipped. That's very telling going forward, the beginning of the end might be coming into view within a week or two. Not quite the case for 'Girls Like You' by Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B up to #2, as sales are up, YouTube is still strong, and while radio looks to be peaking, it is on top in airplay. It forced back 'I Like It' by Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny and J. Balvin to #3, because despite better sales it's getting beaten on YouTube and is starting to fade on the radio, seemingly hitting its peak this week. But now we've got the first of two big arrivals to the top 10: 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott, with uncredited vocals from Drake to put it at #4. Utterly dominant in on-demand streaming, it also picked up big YouTube and sales to get to this position, but with radio refusing to touch it, I'd seriously question any longevity. Granted, I said the same thing about 'FEFE' by 6ix9ine ft. Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz, but it's only down to #5 because sales, streaming, and especially YouTube haven't died yet! Then holding steady at #6 we have 'Better Now' by Post Malone - consistently strong, especially on sales, which is likely proving to be the edge over 'Lucid Dreams' by Juice WRLD holding at #7 with far better streams, but far weaker sales and radio. Then we have our second Travis Scott entry with 'STARGAZING' at #8 - same reasons as 'SICKO MODE' why it broke so high, except minus the sales and YouTube, followed by two songs stubbornly clinging to the top 10: 'Taste' by Tyga and Offset at #9, big on streaming and YouTube but with more traction on the radio and sales than you'd expect, and 'Boo'd Up' by Ella Mai at #10, which is bleeding in all categories after a very respectable run and will probably be out pretty soon.

But now we've got the losers and dropouts - what, you want the gains? Well, there were none this week, with the only returning entry being more Travis Scott in the form of 'Butterfly Effect'! But we had losers and songs forced off, and some big ones in the latter category too: 'Whatever It Takes' by Imagine Dragons, 'Look Alive' by BlocBoy JB ft. Drake, 'Freaky Friday' by Lil Dicky ft. Chris Brown, and then a slew of cuts that will have their chances for the year-end Hot 100 in jeopardy or ruined because of Travis Scott, like 'Sit Next to Me' by Foster The People, 'One Number Away' by Luke Combs, and 'Call Out My Name' by The Weeknd. But man, did we have losers this week, and to try and keep this organized, I'm going to stick to genres, none of which were spared here! So, in pop, 'Friends' by Marshmello and Anne-Marie fell to 32, 'Mine' by Bazzi finally took a hit to 35, 'god is a woman' by Ariana Grande slid to 39, 'One Kiss' by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa broke to 40, 'In My Blood' by Shawn Mendes dripped to 42, 'Never Be The Same' by Camila Cabello faded to 46, 'I Like Me Better' by Lauv slid to 49, 'Eastside' by Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid got cut off early to 55, 'Jackie Chan' by Tiesto, Dzeko, Preme and Post Malone went to 72, 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' by The Backstreet Boys hit 75, 'Growing Pains' by Alessia Cara was hit at 83, 'Nevermind' by Dennis Lloyd fell to 99, 'Take Back Home Girl' by Chris Lane and Tori Kelly hit 67, 'Life Changes' by Thomas Rhett hit 56, and 'Coming Home' by Keith Urban ft. Julia Michaels hit 96. Yes, I count those last few as pop songs, but country was not spared here, as 'Get Along' by Kenny Chesney lost all its album gains to 44, 'Simple' by Florida Georgia Line hit 45, 'Drowns The Whiskey' by Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert sputtered to 52, 'Kiss Somebody' by Morgan Evans hit 77, 'Hooked' by Dylan Scott broke at 88, and 'I Was Jack (You Were Diane)' by Jake Owen wound up at 91. Then we go to R&B and hip-hop, where there were fewer drops than I expected, but still 'Apeshit' by The Carters fell to 51, 'Moonlight' and 'changes' by XXXTENTACION went to 58 and 78 respectively, 'Be Careful' by Cardi B slid to 61, both 'I'm Upset' and 'Mob Ties' by Drake went to 65 and 94, both 'All Girls Are The Same' and 'Wasted with Lil Uzi Vert by Juice WRLD went to 69 and 97, 'Medicine' by Queen Naija hit 71, both 'This Is America' and 'Summertime Magic' by Childish Gambino went to 80 and 100, 'Best Part' by Daniel Caesar and H.E.R. fell to 92, and even 'Bed by Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande went to 84 - I'd expect a rebound, though. Then we've got the rest spanning from reggaeton to whatever passes for rock these days, with 'Natural' by Imagine Dragons at 54, 'Te Bote' at 59, and 'Sin Pijama' by Becky G and Natti Natasha at 93... and I look forward to next week, when so much of these will wind up rebounding, UGH.

But okay, before we get to the avalanche of Travis Scott, we do have some other new arrivals - only four of them, but still, starting with...

87. 'Lean Wit Me' by Juice WRLD - so I've heard some buzz that this was reportedly one of the better songs that Juice WRLD has put out from his debut, and while I had my skepticism, I didn't exactly mind what he gave Travis Scott - more on this in a bit - so I was going in with an open mind. And yeah, this isn't bad, the sort of song that gives you the right kind of unpleasant feeling in your gut when you realize that the artist could well be spinning out of control on too much drugs and it's framed to sound as genuinely dangerous as it is. Sure, the second verse tries to cram in some flexing but it sounds like a desperate flailing moment against the rumbling bass and swampy guitars that even with Juice WRLD's autotune manage to accentuate the real consequences of his drug abuse. And while the hook could very well fall close to glorification territory, to me it feels more reminiscent of something that Danny Brown would have made, except not as manic. So yeah, I'm actually okay with this, not bad at all.

79. 'Trip' by Ella Mai - so I'm actually surprised Ella Mai didn't have something ready earlier, considering how big 'Boo'd Up' has been this year. Granted, I've always been a little cold on that song as a whole so I wasn't that much in a hurry to go back, but I hoped she'd be able to leverage something, even if she's stuck with DJ Mustard on production. And this... honestly, I might like it less than 'Boo'd Up', and sadly there's not just one factor. The painfully thin skitters of the trap beat coasting off the repeating piano line that never really evolves reflects the same slapdash approach DJ Mustard has always brought to the table, the vocal pickup feels really thin even with the harmonies, and the entire song almost feels like it's falling over the word 'trip' whenever it comes up in the hook... which would be excusable if any of the content was remotely interesting. So while I was wrong about 'Boo'd Up' becoming a hit, I wouldn't put money on this sticking around.

76. 'Could've Been' by H.E.R. ft. Bryson Tiller - so I'll admit I had some hopes for the newest EP from H.E.R. - she's a great emotive presence with good taste in production, and while I had questions why she was working with Bryson Tiller of all people, I had at least the hope this would be passable... and I'm not saying that it's not, but it does fall in a different lane than what I was expecting. For one, the production feels much more reminiscent of a Bryson Tiller cut from 2016 in the darker, blocky beat and touches of samples not obscuring the utterly unnecessary pitch-shifted lower vocal that's constantly beneath H.E.R.'s voice - and yeah, she's naturally charismatic enough to get around it and I'd take her over whatever Bryson Tiller's doing, but despite some real atmosphere it just doesn't hit as strongly as it should - it's a song where she's dumping Tiller for cheating on his girl with H.E.R. and she seems more dejected that she deceived herself in thinking it could have worked... and yet the choice to nearly give Tiller the final word feels off, a choice a guy like him doesn't really need or deserve. I dunno, it's not bad, but I do wish I could like it more.

68. 'COFFEE BEAN' by Travis Scott - okay, as usual when it comes to album bombs with ten-plus songs getting added, I'm aiming to keep this brief, so it helps we're starting with one of the better songs. And it sounds like literally nothing Travis Scott has ever done in the best way possible - a blocky New York groove with sharp touches of guitar and hints of Kanye West-esque vocal distortion and strings, the coffee in the hangover after a swirling wave of autotune where Scott tries to reconcile a relationship with Kylie Jenner he expects to fade and leave him on the hook, a rare moment of honest melancholy I think was really well executed. Solid song, recommended.

60. 'Beautiful' by Bazzi ft. Camila Cabello - okay, we'll get back to Travis Scott in a second, but on the topic of long-overdue follow-ups, I've been pretty much the only one who has admitted to actually mostly liking Bazzi's debut earlier this year. 'Mine' is still a really good song, and thus while I'd probably prefer 'Mirror' as the follow-up, I wasn't against him working with Camila Cabello for a remix of 'Beautiful', a song I remember thinking was okay... if even the blocky beat didn't quite feel as well-blended with the more elegant harp touches and I wasn't wild about how much Bazzi was emphasizing how much everyone was lying to her and saying how even her imperfections were beautiful, which was treading towards negging territory. So putting even a limited singer like Camila Cabello would likely lead to a better song, and for the most part it does - it gets rid of the lying references to make this more of a straightforward love song, but my GOD, the slapdash vocal mixing around Camila Cabello can't help but remind us how painfully limited she is as a singer - there's autotune to accent personality and when it's used to cover up bad singing, and it's definitely the latter case here. So call it a wash overall... not a bad cut, but Bazzi has better.

53. 'HOUSTONFORNICATION' by Travis Scott - yeah, the more shrill shrieks against the layered rumbles of bass seem a little more sloppily mixed against the trap beat than it should be, but the production actually works for the odd sense of paranoia, it's a tune I mostly like... but doesn't quite let you ignore how Travis Scott tried to rhyme 'mama' with 'Congress', or indeed that he brought up Bill Clinton at all!

48. 'ASTROTHUNDER' by Travis Scott - you know, going back to these songs piecemeal is really testing how much I liked the production on this thing, especially with the oddly prominent clicking percussion which merges really awkwardly with the dreamy blur of guitar and mushy bass - courtesy of John Mayer and Thundercat, not that anyone could tell! The life you need might be distant, but surely smart mixing wasn't, right?

47. 'SKELETONS' by Travis Scott - I'm actually a little baffled why this song doesn't appear to be as big as many higher on the list - gleaming psychedelic synths with vocal contributions from The Weeknd, Pharrell, and Tame Impala, this should be huge... until Travis Scott talks about ejaculating on your girl's chest and face. Which despite how much I like the production, leads nicely to the response captured in the title of the next track...

43. 'WHO? WHAT?' by Travis Scott - we're deep in filler territory on Astroworld that might as well feel like a jagged reprise of Huncho Jack with more Takeoff... and yet the only notable line comes from Travis Scott talking about the girl throwing her ass 'back in self-defense'... which might be a jarring clash with the woman's scream mixed into the beat, that's all I'm saying.

41. 'NC-17' by Travis Scott - hey look, it's 21 Savage actually being compelling in the face of Travis Scott pitching his voice into a really gross register as he talked about getting his bangs wet eating pussy. And make no mistake, 21's verse is just as profane, but the pianos opening into his verse are a good setup and for once he sounds like he's having fun, so I guess I can tolerate it?

38. 'CAN'T SAY' by Travis Scott - I literally forgot this song existed beyond the malfunctioning beat and Travis giving more time to Don Toliver, who might have the most nasal, squawking voice I've heard in hip-hop in years! Shame there's absolutely nothing to remember any of it beyond the sloppy Trae The Truth sample, so I'll go back to forgetting this exists.

36. '5% TINT' by Travis Scott - I know this is not the common consensus, but I stand by it: my favourite song on Astroworld, mostly thanks to the production. The gurgling toad-like growls, the rickety pianos, the uncanny swells that make you wish Travis Scott was capable of amping up real tension in his delivery or content, and then out of nowhere we get a genuinely beautiful, haunted but ethereal outro that can literally send a chill down my spine. Great song, definitely wish the rest of the album stuck the landing more like this.

31. 'NO BYSTANDERS' by Travis Scott - it's a shame Travis Scott really only gave us the one solid banger off Astroworld, and he had to team up with Juice WRLD to do it, but riding off a rattling beat, gaudy synth and shout from Sheck Wes, it reminds me of the Houston crunk I used to like a decade ago. Hell, with Travis Scott actually bringing some decent flows, it's a shame he didn't bother to push that angle - hell, with the prehistoric AOL punchline, it might as well belong to that era altogether!

30. 'WAKE UP' by Travis Scott - I'm fairly certain this song exists for the dual purposes of getting a worse acoustic guitar pickup than anything Post Malone or XXXTENTACION have ever used, and then for some reason convincing The Weeknd to sing against it. Granted, given that he somehow thought that autotune and vocal layering sounded passable and is continuing to interpolate his own songs from an EP that was an exercise in blatant recycling, it sadly doesn't look that was hard.

27. 'STOP TRYING TO BE GOD' by Travis Scott - so let me get this straight: you got Kid Cudi on a song in arguably one of the best years in his career thus far and all you get him to do is moan? You get Stevie Wonder and all you get him to do is blow the harmonica and one line in the outro? In fairness, James Blake sounds absolutely phenomenal on the bridge, but if it turns out this song was in some way angled at Kendrick - which I kind of doubt but given the verses I do see it - man, dude, I get that you might be holding a grudge for how he's left you hanging when you toured together and he left you hanging by not coming out for 'goosebumps', but that might something you don't want to handle, just saying...

26. 'R.I.P. SCREW' by Travis Scott - so it still bugs the shit out of me that they turned a rest in peace song where DJ Screw literally died from an overdose into another drug anthem, just slowly this time. And beyond that, it's lazy bars and Swae Lee crooning through autotune, so nothing all that memorable or interesting - next!

25. 'YOSEMITE' by Travis Scott - okay, I'll admit that the flutes and guitar have some decent contrast... before it gets swamped out by the clicking trap beat and mindless brand name flexing where it's as much Gunna's underwhelming song as it is Travis'! Also Nav is here, and that's about as much mention as his badly mixed, tacked on outro deserves - next!

23. 'CAROUSEL' by Travis Scott - man, I really do wish I liked this more - Frank Ocean handling the hook and a verse where his voice literally sounds swamped out against massive production with the bassy rumble... but go beyond that and it's just a pretty flimsy cut with an abortive finish. You'd think if you'd get Frank Ocean you'd get more...

8. 'STARGAZING' by Travis Scott - odd how crisp and popping so much of the beat sounds here even as the autotuned post-chorus is utterly drowned out... but that's only the first half of the song, as we then get a clumsy, warping beat switch into a faster groove and Travis Scott actually rapping with more presence! Not a lot of actual content beyond another reference to 'booger sugar' and an attempt to encourage mosh pit injuries, and on the topic of absolute stupidity...

4. 'SICKO MODE' by Travis Scott - so the worst song on the record gets the top slot - and no, it's not all because of Drake although he sure as hell doesn't help here. It's because the song crams in three beat switches, the splattery synth is nasal as hell, the trap beats sound grainy and cheap, and for as much Drake tries to give the song any sort of depth, he winds up sounding awkward, lazy and painfully out of place. It's an incoherent mess and it's only as high as it is because of Drake's ubiquity this year - thanks for that!

So picking the worst here... yeah 'SICKO MODE' gets that, but we might as well follow it with a tie for Dishonourable Mention to both 'WHO? WHAT?' and 'YOSEMITE' for sheer incompetence. Now the best... honestly, Travis will land that with '5% TINT', but I've also got a tie for Honourable Mention with 'COFFEE BEAN' and Juice WRLD's 'Lean Wit Me' - what can I say, it works. Next week, the fallout, and whether it'll be Nicki Minaj or Trippie Redd taking Travis' place, so stay tuned for that.

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